The week leading up to our trip to Barcelona was busy but uneventful. I presented my art history final, which I was nervous but proud about. This was an especially challenging final, as I had to curate an art exhibit in London with objects of my choosing. After reworking my concept over a dozen times and going through ideas with my mom for a few hours, I settled on creating an installation of environmentally friendly works of contemporary art. As I was figuring out all the logistic aspects of creating an art exhibit, I gained a mass appreciation for museum curators. Often overlooked concepts such as preservation, security, labels, plinths and sponsorships all must be meticulously planned before anyone can enter the exhibit. It wasn’t easy, but it was one of the more rewarding projects I’ve had to do, as I felt as though I now have a completely different perspective on museums and the exhibits inside them.
On Wednesday, we met up with our landlord for some drinks at a members only club called Home House. I particularly enjoyed the venue because the inside bar was designed by the famous architect Zaha Hadid. The club was very bouji, there were older men in suits sipping elegant-looking drinks and the atmosphere was very sophisticated. We instantly started joking around about how much we stood out from the crowd, but once we started talking to everyone, we noticed that it was actually a very friendly environment despite the initial intimidation. After talking to our landlord and his friends, we joked about how we have yet to go to Cirque, a relatively exclusive club in London. Before we knew it, we piled up into cars and went to Cirque, where we got our own table and drinks. The inside of the club was unlike anything I had ever seen before – people dressed in outrageous circus outfits walked around and danced with guests, and in the far end of the main room, there was a popcorn machine, a woman who painted guests’ faces and a giant colorful ball pit. My friends and I spent the whole night dancing and running around looking at all the crazy outfits, and culminating the night by jumping in the ball pit together. It was hands down the best night I’ve had abroad.
The following morning, we woke up incredibly groggy and tired, but rushed out the door to catch our flight to Barcelona. I’ve been so excited about this trip for such a long time, especially after I went to Seville and Granada. I loved everything about Spain, and couldn’t wait to go back. On our flight over, Amy and I sat on the third-to-last row of the plane, and on the last two rows was an unbearably loud bachelorette party. I could not believe that Ryanair continued to serve them alcohol – they were completely belligerent and screaming the entire flight. They were so rowdy they even pulled out mini shot glasses and started taking shots halfway though the flight. Amy and I, running on less that a couple hours of sleep, were not pleased.
After we finally landed and got out of that hellish plane, we were amazed by our surroundings. Barcelona looked like a mix between Los Angeles and Fort Lauderdale – it had beautiful palm trees that lined the streets (which we later found out aren’t actually native to Spain, but rather, are borrowed from Brazil) and a stellar city and beach view.
Our Airbnb was located a couple metro stops from the center of the city, but it was a five minute walk from the beach. It was beautiful! That afternoon, we walked along the beach for a while looking for a place to eat. It felt so nice to be near the ocean and feel the sandy air. We always make fun of Mel whenever she talks about how happy the beach makes her feel, but it really is true. As cliché as it sounds, there’s something about walking by the ocean that just makes you feel better. We settled on a restaurant that was right on the beach, so we had a beautiful view of the boardwalk and the ocean. Our waiter was this incredibly funny Spanish guy, and I spent the entire dinner laughing at his jokes and then trying to translate them to English so the rest of my friends could understand. We had the best sangria I had ever had at this restaurant, and the food we ate was all incredibly fresh. Our waiter recommended a few tapas for us, and to my surprise, I ate fish and liked it! I enjoyed a cod buñuelo, calamari and another fish with a salty inside that none of us recognized but all thought was really good. We also had jamón ibérico, patatas bravas and guacamole. We stayed at this restaurant for hours trying different types of food and having an amazing time. It was one of my favorite meals since I’ve been abroad.
After our unreal dinner, we walked along the beach. We wanted to go to a fair that we saw on our way into the city, and started to walk in that direction. Once we got closer to the fair, we realized that all the lights were off and the rides were all closed. We were a bit bummed, but at the same time still enjoyed our walk along the beach.
The next morning, we went to the center of the city to do a walking tour. Barcelona is similar to London in the sense that all the big attractions aren’t walking distance from each other. During our trip, we took the metro several times to get from one sight to the next. Because of this, our walking tour took us through some main areas of the center of the city, but there was a lot that we still didn’t get to see. I personally enjoyed the walking tour because although we didn’t see the most exciting and well-known things, we learned all about the city’s history, which is something that always interests me. The rest of my friends weren’t as intrigued by the historical information, so they thought the tour wasn’t the best one we’ve done.
Once the tour was over, we met up with one of Mel’s friends from a scuba diving camp she had done about five years ago. He’s a local, so he took us to a really cute restaurant outside of the city where we got more tapas and drinks. He was really friendly, and I got a chance to speak to him in Spanish while Adam, Amy and Mel went to the bathroom.
After our lunch, we went to the center of the city to see the famous Casa Milà. Antoni Gaudí, a Catalan architect, designed the modernist building that stood apart from the rest of its surroundings. The building was commissioned to be the home of Roser Segimon and Pere Milà, two wealthy socialites of the early 1900s. The tour of the building was incredible. We began the tour on the rooftop where Amy pointed out that it looked like a scene out of a Dr. Seuss book. There were swirling structures with winding stairs all around the top, and guests had to duck and dodge through the columns that were scattered along the rooftop. We had an unobstructed view of the entire city, and all looked at our surroundings in awe. After walking through the rooftop, the tour led us through the attic, where we got to see all the different items that inspired Gaudí. There were shells, skeletons, rocks, corals and other wacky shaped items that at first seemed a little far fetched, but then after looking around at our surroundings, we understood how they played a role in influencing Gaudí’s creativity. Lastly, we went downstairs and got to walk through one of the apartments in the building. It was a lot bigger than I had imagined, at first I thought we were walking through a series of apartments. As I looked around the apartment I couldn’t believe that this was a 20th century home. While some of the appliances and items in the house were obviously outdated, I thought that Gaudí’s design gave the house a somewhat timeless style. I thought the house was pretty cool, and would have loved to live there back then!
After our tour, we spotted a Brandy Melville and immediately went inside. Ironically, since coming to Europe, we’ve always searched for the American clothing store at every city we’ve gone to. I’ve grown to really like their clothes, and bought a couple things that day.
We walked along the main shopping area for a while, and stopped at a street sushi café to rest and drink some more sangria and after about thirty minutes of drinking, we got hungry and ordered some sushi. I never thought I’d eat sushi in Barcelona, but there’s a first time for everything!
That night we really wanted to go to a club on the beach called Opium, but we heard that the best time to go is two in the morning. We had plans to go home and take a quick nap before going back out, but by the time we got back at around 11:00 PM, our quick nap turned into a full night’s sleep and we woke up the next morning fully clothed and confused.
Once we came to the realization that we slept through all of our alarms, we made plans to definitely make it out on Saturday night. After a slow start, we took the metro to the Parc Güell, another of Gaudí’s beautiful creations. On our way over, we stopped at a café to buy churros with chocolate to start off our day. When we finally arrived at the park, we were told that the earliest we could go inside was at 5:00 PM that afternoon, so we bought tickets in advance and took the opportunity to go see another attraction in Barcelona.
We made our way back to the metro station and went to the Sagrada Família. Out of all of the churches and cathedrals I have ever seen, this has by far been my favorite. This Roman Catholic church was yet another of Gaudí’s amazing works of art, and it completely blew me away. Construction of this ginormous cathedral began in 1882 and won’t be completed until 2026, 100 years after Gaudí passed away. The sheer size of this church was unbelievable. I really wanted to see the inside, but unfortunately, tickets for that day had already been sold out until 6:00 PM, which conflicted with the Parc Güell reservation we had just made. I was really bummed we didn’t get to look inside, but that just gives me another reason to hopefully come back one day!
With only a couple hours until we had to be back at the park, we stopped at a nearby restaurant to grab some lunch. Amy, Mel and I split a plate of paella, which is basically a giant plate filled with meat, seafood, vegetables and rice. It was super filling but absolutely delicious. Of course, we had some sangria as well. Adam, on the other hand, saw a Burger King right by our restaurant, and ran inside to get a Whopper.
After our big lunch, we headed back to Parc Güell for our tour. The park was decorated with beautiful Gaudí-style arches that incorporated the nature around them, and at the center of the park was a giant open area with beautiful mosaic benches that faced the city. It was an unreal view of not only the city, but the rest of Gaudí’s beautiful designs around the rest of the park. We spent about an hour taking pictures and walking through the park, and even recording some funny footage of us running around the park on Adam’s GoPro.
We left the park pretty content with all the sightseeing we did that day. We had made plans to go on a tapas tour that night, so we made our way to the meeting spot. The first bar we went to was similar to the tapas place I had gone to in London just last week – we got to pick as many tapas as we wanted, and paid at the end by counting the little sticks that held them together. I had two delicious sweet cheese tapas and a beer!
At the next bar we visited we ate more patatas bravas, ham and cheese croquettes and bread with a special tomato that only grows in Barcelona. We had some wine to go along with our tapas. At that restaurant the four of us started to reflect on abroad, and started to get a little emotional about our trip coming to an end. Before we could get too sad, we left to go to the next bar, where we had a really cool drinking experience.
The tapas we ate at the next bar were a mix between chorizo and potato on bread. We hardly ate the tapas though, because we were too focused on what we were drinking. We were given these wine pitchers called porrónes. Each holds about ¾ of a liter of wine, and they look like a watering can. They have a sprout at the end of the bottle that pours the wine directly into your mouth without touching your lips, so they’re meant for sharing wine with a group of people. We had a blast trying to aim the wine into our mouths without spilling too much on ourselves and the table, and eventually we got pretty good at it! We were sharing a table with a group of Argentinian girls, and we made up a drinking game with them. By the time we had to leave the bar, our table finished two porrónes!
The last bar we went to was an actual bar, where instead of tapas we each got a free shot. It tasted a little like coffee, so it was pretty good! We stayed for a bit and played a game of foosball, where Adam and I came back from behind and completely destroyed Mel and Amy. We then left the bar to go home and change before finally going out.
Once we got home, we relaxed for a little but we refused to let anyone fall asleep – we were determined to make it out this time! We grabbed a couple bottles of wine before coming home, so we poured ourselves a glass and played a few rounds of shoulders, a drinking came we’ve all come to love. Once it was 1:00 AM, we rallied and headed over to the club. We were a little worried because at first we couldn't flag down a cab, so we were going to have to make the thirty-minute walk in our heels. Luckily I was able to spot somebody about halfway through, and we were able to catch a ride to the beach.
When we arrived, the club scene looked completely different from what we were used to. For starters, clubs in London are all underground, and during the day, the entry doors are so plain and undistinguishable that they completely blend in with their surroundings. In Barcelona, the clubs had giant neon lights that detailed their names and you could hear the music from about a block and a half away. Hundreds of people spilled onto the beach, and when we got to the club, there were about fifty people in line ahead of us. Luckily, the line moved extremely fast – we were inside after about five minutes of waiting. Mel’s friend had told us the name of a guest list so we didn’t have to pay and got in without any problems. Once we were inside, we got drinks (we paid 14€ for a Red Bull vodka, can’t say I was surprised, but I still wasn’t very happy) and made our way to the dance floor. The club was like a giant rave, there were strobe lights everywhere and over a hundred people we packed on the giant dance floor. Despite the huge amount of people that were there, the club was huge, and everyone fit comfortably. We spent hours dancing and having an amazing time, and at about four or five in the morning, we made our way to the beach to dip our feet in the water and lay in the sand. We didn’t make it back to our apartment until the early hours of the morning, and after hanging out some more once we got home, we finally went to bed. It was another one of my most memorable nights abroad – the atmosphere and the scenery was amazing.
The next morning we left for the airport at around noon. We were all a little groggy and tired from the night before, but luckily there was no bachelorette party on our flight back and we were able to sleep on the way home. We got to London and went to a Mexican restaurant for a bite to eat, and reflected on the fact that we just had our last trip. Reality is starting to sink in – abroad is almost over. I’m already upset to be leaving this beautiful continent; I know that once I get back I’m going to have a hard time adjusting back to my daily routine. We have one week of classes left before finals, and after that, our program ends. We have a lot of big things planned for this week to finish off abroad with a bang!